Top university officials have told Kansas lawmakers they plan to raise student tuition fees, but few have said by how much.
While formal tuition proposals haven’t been finalized and probably won’t be for a few months, higher education leaders are already saying that students will likely pay more next year.
The comments come after Gov. Laura Kelly vowed to support a tuition freeze but chose not to freeze tuition fees in a budget proposal that increases funding for higher education, but not enough to cover costs higher by inflation.
Blake Flanders, chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents, which sets tuition for state universities, said he has kept tuition lower in recent years.
“We haven’t raised tuition,” Flanders said. We could see maybe a modest increase. We’ve had inflation rates generally incredibly high. But if we can couple a modest increase with some help, then you can help the students most in need”.
The news comes from the House Higher Education Budget Committee, which has held multiple days of hearings on the university’s budget proposals. Lawmakers have directly asked university leaders about potential tuition increases in light of an expected increase in state funding to help cover inflation.
The increase in funding equates to a 5% adjustment, which is significantly less than what inflation has been.
“State funding represents 17 percent of my budget. I have to recover inflation on my entire budget,” said University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod. “So I expect we’ll be asking for a small tuition increase this year, and we’re still working with students on what that would look like.”
Kansas State University President Richard Linton anticipates a proposed tuition in line with what the university planned to look for last year before Kelly stalled tuition hikes.
“We’ll probably try to figure out where we were last year,” Linton said. “So last year, we were looking at the need for a tuition increase of about 3%, which we didn’t push forward at the governor’s recommendation. But I think this year we would like to be able to push that need forward in order be able to offer students the services they need.”
Wichita State University President Rick Muma said the proposed state funding increase would allow the school to “keep tuition increases as minimal as possible.”
President JuliAnn Mazachek, of Washburn University, which is not a Regents institution in its own right, said the state aid increase “will have the impact of helping us minimize any tuition increases that would be needed.”
Fort Hays State University President Tisa Mason has urged lawmakers not to freeze tuition fees, citing last year’s freeze by the governor as “a cautionary tale.” Fort Hays had planned “a modest tuition increase”, adding that it would make the university “financially complete”.
Moreover:Gov. Laura Kelly’s tuition freeze could be a mixed bag for Kansas state universities
Pittsburg State University president Dan Shipp has not been asked to raise tuition fees.
Emporia State University has not yet had a hearing on the budget.
Kelly’s budget allows for a tuition hike this year
During his re-election campaign, Kelly vowed to support a tuition freeze.
“I am proud of the work we have done to keep classes flat at our Regents institutions,” Kelly said in campaign materials. “In my second term, I will continue to support a tuition freeze.”
But this year, Kelly doesn’t require colleges to freeze tuition fees, as he did last year.
“I’m not going to commit them to freezing intuition,” said Adam Proffitt, director of the governor’s budget at state universities last month. “We believe this puts them in a position to have modest increases, if any, but certainly up to the institutions”.
Last year, Kelly’s line-item vetoed a budget clause that would have allowed colleges to raise tuition fees. Some school administrators were already preparing proposals to raise tuition fees when they learned the governor was blocking them. The move came as the legislature increased state aid by less than Kelly and the higher education system required.
Moreover:Laura Kelly’s budget increases funds for special education, state workers’ pay. Here’s what to know.
This year, Kelly’s budget proposal called for $21.8 million to help offset inflation at Regents plus Washburn universities. The budget allows universities to raise tuition fees.
“We haven’t had the conversation about locking them in a tuition freeze,” Proffitt said. “We’ve had conversations about what tuition is like and what this funding is. That’s where that $21.8 million comes in to mitigate the cost of inflation.
“If we can offset some of these cost increases, they can have a more stable — I’m not going to commit them to a number, but trying to keep tuition increases as low as possible. But there’s no mandate to freeze tuition.” tuition. “